The Teachers College at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Education, Health and Psychology in New York is implementing a full suite of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Aruba (an HPE company) wired and wireless solutions to enable a 21st century education environment and to support the research the College conducts.
The solution is using a portfolio of HPE core and data centre switches, Aruba Wi-Fi, access switches and mobility controllers, AirWave network management, ClearPass Policy Manager and Aruba Mobile Engagement solution. It will enable Teachers College to provide its 5,300 students spread across eight, interconnected campus buildings, quick and reliable access to essential resources via any mobile device.
Teachers College is the first and largest graduate school of education in the United States encompassing four core areas of expertise: health, education, leadership, and psychology. With the growth of the College, its aggressive research and classroom agendas, and the increasing number of mobile devices that students are bringing to campus, the IT department found it needed a new infrastructure to address mobility, personal devices and bandwidth needs.
According to Naveed Husain, CIO for Teachers College, giving these students dependable access via their own various mobile devices both in the classroom and around campus was the key driver behind the College’s decision to replace its legacy Cisco wireless equipment and update the network.
“As the nation’s leading graduate school, we really needed to embrace the digital world and put the right infrastructure in place now to ensure we’re ready for our future needs,” Husain said. “And our students, most of whom are in Masters or PhD programs, need classrooms in which they can connect and share their content online and in real time, which means reliable Wi-Fi is critical to meeting their needs.”
Like many institutions of higher learning, Teachers College is also moving rapidly toward classrooms of the future, with a plan for 52 classroom updates, seven of which will be completed by the end of 2016. The new classrooms will be completely wireless and devices will have wall-mounted touch-screens.
Already, the College is enabling students to bring their own devices into the classrooms to present using Apple TV and Chromecast over Wi-Fi connections. Many of these students are streaming content, as well, and Husain notes that all of these capabilities are dependent upon a stable wireless infrastructure.
“If the wireless doesn’t work or the experience is bad, students will be vocal and IT will hear about it. No CIO wants to be in that situation,” he stated.
These same wireless capabilities are required in the Teachers College offices and conference rooms – the latter of which the College has outfitted with Apple TVs just like the classrooms. In addition, the College will rely on the network to facilitate the big data research that Teachers College students and faculty conduct both on campus and remotely, as this research is fundamental to the College’s mission.
To address all of these needs, Teachers College evaluated next-generation solutions from both Cisco and HPE/Aruba. The College concluded HPE/Aruba could best meet its challenges with the vendor’s current, integrated portfolio and planned roadmap and what the College deemed overall better support and service.
For its data centre network, Teachers College will use HPE FlexFabric 12508 core switches for redundancy, which provide connectivity for an array of HPE FlexFabric 5930 Series leaf switches for top-of-rack server access, all managed by the HPE Intelligent Management Center (IMC).
The access layer includes Aruba 5400R and 3810 switches and on the wireless side, Aruba 225 Series 802.11ac access points, and 7200 Series mobility controllers. The ClearPass Policy Manager provides access control, policy management, on-boarding and guest services.
The College is also using AirWave network management to provide full visibility into how the wireless network is performing and for fast troubleshooting and problem resolution. TC plans to complete the wireless deployment by Spring 2016 and the wired deployment later in the year.
ClearPass is particularly important for Teachers College as they will use it to provision all of their devices securely and apply policies to provide different levels of network access depending on user and device type.
Husain noted that this is particularly important since Columbia University has a free lab policy, allowing anyone to use the Wi-Fi free of charge and without logging in. With ClearPass, the College can utilize 802.1x authentication to deliver the security required, while maintaining an “easy access” lab experience, without requiring that users frequently enter passwords.
The College also plans to use ClearPass for wired access in the future to enable a consistent user experience across networks whether wireless or wired and so that different users on different devices can be given varying privileges automatically.
HPE/Aruba’s thought leadership and support for Software Defined Networking (SDN) was also a significant factor in the College’s choice of vendors. Teachers College plans to leverage HPE’s SDN solution to program their network to align with the organization’s needs. Said Husain, “HPE/Aruba has one of the industry’s broadest SDN offerings which we can use to collaborate with the SDN initiatives provided by other vendors in our ecosystem.”
Looking ahead, Teachers College plans to expand their existing mobile app with the Aruba Mobile Engagement solution. The College has already begun deploying Aruba Beacons in several buildings on campus and will use the Meridian Mobile App Platform to enhance their mobile app with wayfinding and other features including push notifications.
For example, Teachers will be able to send students notifications for campus events providing details such as a date or time change, available amenities and food at the event or information on post-event gatherings. The College could also use the beacons and mobile app to send emergency alerts to provide students with important safety instructions.
Said Husain: “The expectation for our network, whether from the perspective of a student, guest, faculty member or employee is that it should just work. It’s like turning on the lights in a room or the water at a faucet. It should be that simple. We think our HPE/Aruba network will give us the best opportunity to ensure this peace of mind.”